Keosha's story

Cancer Patient

At 31 years old, the last thing you expect to hear from a doctor is that you have cancer. But that’s exactly what Keosha Wilkes heard from her medical team at Vidant Medical Center. Her life changed in an instant, but she vowed she wouldn’t give up, and she didn’t.

Keosha Wilkes

Keep on, keeping on.

It started with a headache. It was one of those persistent headaches that really never went away. Keosha Wilkes took some over-the-counter medication for the pain. It helped for a little while, but then the pain returned.

When she couldn’t stand it any longer, she went to the Emergency Department at Vidant Medical Center. She had a sinus infection, so they treated her for that, and Keosha went on her way. The pain subsided for a few days, but came back with a vengeance. Keosha found herself in the ED several more times. She knew it was more than a migraine. “The pain was non-stop,” she said.

When Keosha came to the ED the last time, one side of her face was a little swollen. The pain was worse. The pressure was worse. Doctors ordered an MRI and what they found was astonishing. Keosha, at only 31 years old, had a mass the size of an orange in the left side of her head. Doctors took a biopsy, and the next day, Keosha found out she had cancer.

It was a nasopharyngeal tumor, something Keosha had never even heard of before. “That was not what I expected for them to tell me,” she said. “I was totally shocked.”

Because she was in so much pain, Keosha was admitted to the hospital. She stayed there for a month. Her care team worked to get her pain under control and determine a plan of care. Once she was well enough, Keosha started chemotherapy. It was Valentine’s Day, she recalls. She had one treatment every three weeks. When chemo was over, she started 37 days of radiation.

“Treatment was tough,” Keosha said. “It was not easy, and at one point, I wanted to give up. I was worn out and tired. I had no energy. Cancer took everything from me.”

There was one huge factor that made Keosha rethink her decision to give up – her son. She knew he needed her.

Her commitment to her son, along with her family support system, helped Keosha make it through the tough times. She credits her cancer care team, especially navigator Janet Reimer. “They helped make it a little easier,” she said.

Keosha finished her treatments in the summer of 2014. She was anxious about the repeat MRI. Was the tumor shrinking? Would she have to endure more treatments?

Once again, what the doctors found on the MRI was astonishing. There was no evidence of the tumor. The scan was clear. The tumor was gone. Keosha’s cancer was gone.

“It was a huge relief,” she said. “I couldn’t even believe it.”

Keosha was in school when she was diagnosed with cancer. She had to take a semester off because of her treatments, but after that one semester break, she jumped right back in. “I am pushing myself,” she said, “I will not give up.” She is studying medical office administration at Beaufort Community College in Washington.

Keosha has an MRI every two months to make sure the tumor has not returned.

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“It was not easy, and at one point, I wanted to give up. I was worn out and tired. I had no energy. Cancer took everything from me.” Keosha Wilkes
Cancer Patient